Herm Minkoff talks to, from left, residents Dick Simons, Edwin Kingston, Stanley Fabiano and Verna Tarasi
Herm Minkoff asks the group: Should colleges pay their athletes? After all, schools make millions. Coaches make millions, plus bonuses for steering their teams toward championship games.
Dick Simons believes in a “reasonable reimbursement,” after accounting for scholarships and such. Verna Tarasi isn’t sure. Stanley Fabiano agrees with Simons that some payment seems fair.
“The major problem,” Fabiano adds to the debate, “is if they give it to one sport, they’d have to give it to all the sports.”
Welcome to Sports Talk at Homeland Center. Every other Thursday, residents and rehab patients gather near the beauty salon, just beside the eye-catching saltwater aquarium, for a discussion of sports topics led by Minkoff.
Minkoff is a retired furniture dealer and resident of Susquehanna Township who devotes his time to volunteering. He leads discussion groups at retirement communities. He serves meals at homeless shelters. He delivers meals to homebound people.
“I just love to do things to make people happy,” he says. “I love making people smile. I feel that God is looking down on me.”
On this busy Thursday afternoon at Homeland, Minkoff arrives with his discussion agenda written on a legal pad. He brings clips torn from newspapers. He brings magazine inserts. He brings books with pages marked by pink sticky notes: “Great Quotes from Great Sports Heroes.” “1,001 Fascinating Baseball Quotes.”
Minkoff weaves historical references into the hot sports topics of today. Participants appreciate his guidance through the complex issues confronting sports at the college and professional levels.
“He’s a good lecturer, and his topics are very current,” says Simons. “Because of him, now I read the sports page.”
“He has more knowledge in one little finger than most people have in their whole body,” adds Fabiano.
Minkoff keeps the discussion topical and timely. On the eve of opening day for Major League Baseball, he reminds participants that on April 15, every ballplayer wears the number 42 to honor Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers legend who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. He compares Robinson’s last year with the Dodgers, when the aging player refused a trade to the hated Giants, to today’s New York Yankees signing Derek Jeter, beloved but past his prime, to one last year.
“Jeter has seen his better years,” Minkoff says. “They want him to finish up as a Yankee. The Dodgers should have done that with Jackie Robinson.”
Minkoff doesn’t shy from the most controversial aspects of sports today, whether it’s paying college athletes, racism in the locker rooms or changing team names that some find offensive. His topics are ripped from the headlines, meant to engage Homeland residents with current events.
“A lot of people don’t know what’s going on,” Minkoff says. “I’ll remind them. They appreciate that. They’re hearing things they wouldn’t hear otherwise.”
In his six years of leading the Sports Talk group, Minkoff says he has gotten to know the participants well.
“They look forward to my coming down,” he says. “They appreciate it so much.”